When the final buzzer sounded on opening night, the scoreboard reflected a result most would not have predicted. Despite being ranked No. 17, IU women’s basketball caught fire from the floor and knocked off No. 5 University of South Carolina, 71-57.
This was the first time the Hoosiers defeated a top-5 AP poll ranked team since taking down Ohio State in 2010.
“I thought it was a statement game for us,” IU head coach Teri Moren said.
The Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands featured a fierce Hoosier offense and lockdown defense that pulled out all the stops to advance to 6-1 on the season. Leading the Jams’ shooting clinic was senior forward Brenna Wise and junior guard Ali Patberg.
The duo each put up 16 points against the Gamecocks put on Thursday as the Hoosiers shot 50% from the floor and nearly the same percentage from behind the arc.
Wise was 80% from three-point range and put up two steals in 31 minutes. Her dominance from deep freed up teammates down low and continued to pressure USC down the stretch.
Wise and the veterans kept the back and forth game flowing with solid defense that held IU in the contest during its dry spell in the third quarter. IU forced 18 USC turnovers which translated into 18 points on the other end.
“It was a game of runs,” Wise said. “Our defense created our offense and it was more about stopping the ball and then whatever came offensively happened.”
Patberg’s team-high four assists helped stretch the floor on a night where ball movement was not the team’s strong suit. The junior played almost the entire contest and was key to the team’s 24-6 scoring spree in the fourth quarter.
The duo shined less in Friday’s 77-62 loss to No. 2 Baylor University with a combined 22 points and 12 rebounds. Both played a season-high in minutes and worked with sophomore guard and leading scorer Grace Berger to keep the game interesting.
Berger put up 18 points and shot 62% from the field. Along with Wise’s four assists, Berger kept IU’s offense sharp in the Hoosiers’ tough loss to the Bears.
“I thought Grace Berger had two really good performances back-to-back, but it’s just not enough against a Baylor team that has so many weapons,” Moren said.
As a returner to IU, Berger has outperformed her freshman season beyond what statistics could have suggested. She is 10th in the Big Ten in points per game and sixth in field goal percentage.
Saturday’s dominating win for IU became less exciting after Berger went down. The sophomore guard played a season low 18 minutes in IU’s 78-44 win over Washington State University.
Berger did not play during the second half, managing just six points and two rebounds. Her status for Wednesday’s match at the University of Miami is unknown. IU also saw another starter, sophomore forward Aleksa Gul be, play just 22 minutes against Baylor and then not at all against WSU.
Although Gulbe put up only two points and six rebounds, her presence on the low block gives IU options down low and second chance opportunities. Gulbe’s status for Wednesday is also uncertain.
In the face of two injured starters, IU’s bench production stepped up its game and kept IU on the scoreboard with fresh legs.The second unit combined for 41 points over the weekend with 30 coming from the games where IU lost Gulbe and Berger.
Freshman forward Mackenzie Holmes made her first career start against WSU. In her 26 minutes, Holmes proved that with or without Gulbe, she can position herself in the key and collect second chance opportunities and easy finishes for IU.
Holmes averaged 21 minutes per game over the tournament, scoring 11 points and grabbing seven rebounds on average in each.
Moren said she was pleased with her freshman forward’s hustle and was also content with the way her second unit played.
“I loved how our other pieces stepped up in a big way,” Moren said. “Chanel Wilson, Keyanna Warthen, Jorie Allen, and Hannah Noveroske came off the bench and gave us great minutes.”
Moren’s bench continues to contribute when it matters most, a good sign with potential injuries freeing up minutes.